Ex-FDA leaders warn against Trump manipulation of COVID-19 vaccine

  • Seven former FDA commissioners penned an op-ed on Tuesday warning against political manipulation of the administration.
  • The commissioners, including President Trump’s first appointee and former advisor, say the White House is undermining faith in science and contributing to skepticism of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • For decades, “the public knew we were speaking on behalf of experts whose judgments were grounded in science,” the commissioners wrote. “That is changing in deeply troubling ways.”
  • “If the White House takes the unprecedented step of trying to tip the scales on how safety and benefits will be judged, the impact on public trust will render an effective vaccine much less so.”
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President Donald Trump’s first head of the Food and Drug Administration has joined six other former commissioners in warning that the White House is undermining faith in science in an apparent effort to rush out a vaccine for the coronavirus.

For decades, “the public knew we were speaking on behalf of experts whose judgments were grounded in science,” the ex-FDA leaders said in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Washington Post. “That is changing in deeply troubling ways.”

The commissioners, including former Trump campaign advisor Scott Gottlieb, cited the president’s own rejection of FDA standards for a vaccine. On Sept. 23, he declared that such standards — ensuring any vaccine meets the approval of career scientists, not just White House flacks — “sounds like a political move.” They also pointed to “acknowledged acts of political influence on the FDA’s coronavirus communications,” including the scientifically dubious emergency authorization for convalescent plasma treatment.

That, they argue, is undermining faith in the FDA and causing widespread skepticism of any Trump-approved coronavirus vaccine. Recent polls have indicated that a third of Americans would refuse to take any such inoculation.

“If the FDA makes available a safe and effective vaccine that people trust, we could expect to meaningfully reduce covid-19 risk as soon as next spring or summer,” they wrote. “Without that trust, our health and economy could lag for years.”

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House GOP leaders rally opposition to Democrats’ scaled-down COVID bill

House Republicans are rallying members to oppose a new scaled-down coronavirus relief package from Democrats.

The GOP effort comes as negotiations between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAirline industry applauds Democrats for including aid in coronavirus relief package Democrats unveil scaled-down .2T coronavirus relief package Trump tax reveal roils presidential race MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDemocrats unveil scaled-down .2T coronavirus relief package Households, businesses fall into financial holes as COVID aid dries up Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote MORE showed signs of progress Tuesday on a COVID-19 aid bill after a weeks-long impasse.

Democrats unveiled their $2.2 trillion slimmed down proposal on Monday evening, which could come to the floor for a vote before the end of the week if a bipartisan agreement isn’t reached. The price tag is significantly lower than the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May.

But House GOP leaders on Tuesday rejected the new legislation.

“This bill recycles the same socialist wish list that was offered in the Heroes Act, which House Republicans overwhelmingly rejected,” House GOP Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseGinsburg becomes the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol House GOP slated to unveil agenda ahead of election House panel details ‘serious’ concerns around Florida, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin elections MORE wrote in a memo sent to members urging a “no” vote on the legislation.

“Costing approximately $2.2 trillion, this is nothing more than a messaging exercise intended to appease the far-left base by included progressive policies that have nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. Neither this bill nor anything like it will ever become law and Republicans should remain unified against this partisan power grab,” he added.

Congressional Republicans have expressed strong reservations about a number of provisions in the new bill from Democrats, including “subsidized Obamacare” for those receiving unemployment, the process in which the $600 a week in unemployment insurance would be extended, the potential for undocumented immigrants to receive stimulus payments and language calling for the release of certain federal prisoners.

The GOP memo noted that conservative outside groups — including Heritage Action, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Taxpayers Protection Alliance  and the Eagle Forum — have come out strongly against the Democratic measure.

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House leaders postpone vote on stopgap funding bill

Democrats had balked at a push by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers to pump more than $20 billion into Commodity Credit Corporation funding to make more payments to farmers and ranchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, said the farm money has been used as a “slush fund” for favored political interests. Democrats stripped the money out of the resolution that was introduced Monday, along with $2.7 billion for a program designed to provide subsidized meals to children who normally receive them when schools are open.

Republicans objected to the decision to strip the funding. Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that Democrats were “abandoning farmers” by denying them the payments.

The House Agriculture Committee’s top Republican, K. Michael Conaway of Texas, tried to offer an amendment that would restore both the farm payments and the school nutrition program extension, but Democrats on the Rules Committee blocked it.

The minority is offering a motion to recommit during floor debate, however, which if adopted would add provisions included in the motion to the underlying bill as if it were a regular amendment. Republicans weren’t saying what their motion would entail, but the Conaway amendment or something like it would be eligible.

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House hits pause on spending vote as Hill leaders resume talks

Congressional leaders are back at the negotiating table over the three-month stopgap — which is intended to punt any fiscal drama past Sept. 30 and until the lame-duck session — after talks broke down on Friday. While both parties appear to be coalescing around a Dec. 11 end date, Democrats and Republicans have squabbled for weeks over which funding and policy exceptions should be included in the continuing resolution, which would buy more time for negotiations on a broader spending deal.

A deal appeared to be coming together on Friday, including tens of billions of dollars in payments to farmers that Republicans sought in exchange for $2 billion in pandemic-related nutritional assistance that Democrats wanted.

But last-minute objections to the trade relief — including Democratic concerns that the president is leveraging the money to boost his reelection chances — tanked the talks. House Democrats ultimately released stopgap legislation on Monday that lacked both provisions, drawing the ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky,), who tweeted that it “shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need.”

Without a spending agreement, top Democrats and Republicans would find themselves exactly where they don’t want to be just weeks before the election — perilously close to the Sept. 30 deadline with no agreement to keep the government open.

Pelosi and McConnell have been adamant about avoiding another government shutdown under President Donald Trump and have supported a bill to extend funding through mid-December.

Senate Republicans on Monday said a lack of relief for farmers in the stopgap spending bill is problematic. But most stressed that it’s not worth shutting down the government in protest and said their side of the Capitol could still attempt to amend the bill.

“We could offer an amendment to try to put it back,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of the trade aid on Monday. “Or we could vote against the CR. But I’m for running the government. I’d prefer to keep the government running.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, slammed the lack of assistance for farmers. But when asked whether Republicans would shut down the government without it, he replied, “No.”

As of Friday, Democrats had dropped a request that would extend the Census Bureau’s Dec. 31 deadline to turn over apportionment data used to divvy up House seats to the president — potentially punting the final handling of census data to Democratic nominee Joe Biden if he’s elected this November.

Democrats had also failed to secure $3.6 billion in election security grants.

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‘Please help,’ Spring Garden residents tell city leaders after quintuple shooting that killed 2 men

After Wednesday night’s quintuple shooting at Roberto Clemente Playground in Spring Garden, a woman e-mailed City Council President Darrell Clarke and the mayor. “I am writing yet again, less than a month since my last email, to beg for help,” she wrote. “The situation on and around Wallace St. is escalating. 55 shots fired tonight. In a children’s playground.”

a man standing next to a fence: The basketball courts at Roberto Clemente Playground are chained closed on Thursday morning at 18th and Wallace in Spring Garden section of Philadelphia, September 17, 2020. This was the scene of a Wednesday night quintuple shooting that killed two people.

© ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS
The basketball courts at Roberto Clemente Playground are chained closed on Thursday morning at 18th and Wallace in Spring Garden section of Philadelphia, September 17, 2020. This was the scene of a Wednesday night quintuple shooting that killed two people.

It was the eighth shooting in Spring Garden this year. Three weeks ago, the woman had e-mailed Clarke after another Wallace Street incident.

“The expectation is we should be able to walk our streets without being shot,” she said Thursday, on the condition her name not be used for fear of retribution.

Wednesday night’s shooting on the 1800 block of Wallace was “what we were trying to avoid,” she said. “But we’re here now.”

Her concerns have been echoed by other residents in Spring Garden, a neighborhood with both economic and racial diversity, with gentrifying areas and blocks of deep poverty.

Gun violence has been a problem across Philadelphia this year. There have been 323 homicides in the city as of Wednesday night, a 32% increase from the same period last year, and more than the year-end homicide counts for almost every year from 2009 through 2017, according to police statistics.

There have been 1,475 shootings in the city as of Wednesday, a figure that exceeds the total year-end number of shootings from the last five years. From 2015 to 2017, there were about 1,250 shootings each year. In 2018, there were 1,401 shootings and 1,463 last year.

Kenney, in an e-mailed statement Thursday, said the city is “devastated” by a violent year, and “our hearts go out to the families of everyone affected by last night’s shooting.”

“We will continue to do everything we can do,” Clarke said in an interview, but one factor is an ongoing problem — “the availability of illegal weapons.”

In Wednesday’s shooting at the park’s basketball court, police responded about 8:10 p.m. to numerous 911 calls about gunfire. Two men, ages 18 and 21, had been fatally shot.

Surveillance video showed three assailants opening fire on a group of about 15 people, Chief Inspector Scott Small said. Police found 55 spent shell casings from two separate caliber firearms, he said.

Officers found 21-year-old Khalid Henderson, of the 1600 block of Wallace Street, unresponsive on the court and carried him to a 9th District patrol car. Before they left for the hospital, medics arrived and pronounced him dead at 8:25 p.m. in the backseat.

Police said an 18-year-old man, with gunshot wounds to his torso, was pronounced dead about two hours later. He was identified as Jayden Lucas, of Oxford Circle.

Three other men, one 18 and two others

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Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report

The military police officer with jurisdiction over the Washington, D.C., region inquired about whether the D.C. National Guard had access to a military heat ray for use against protesters in June, according to emails obtained by NPR.

Major Adam DeMarco of the D.C. National Guard told the House Committee on Natural Resources that the Provost Marshal of Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region copied him on an email, seeking an Active Denial System (ADS).

The ADS is designed to heat human targets using millimeter wave technology, according to NPR. Both its effectiveness and the ethics of using it have been controversial since its development decades ago.

The Provost Marshal’s email stated that the “ADS can provide our troops a capability they currently do not have, the ability to reach out and engage potential adversaries at distances well beyond small arms range, and in a safe, effective, and non-lethal manner.”

The device “provides a sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin. The effect is overwhelming, causing an immediate repel response by the targeted individual,” he added.

The Provost Marshal also requested a long-range acoustic device (LRAD), a sound cannon frequently used to disperse crowds.

Under a 2015 settlement, federal police are required to give large crowds multiple advance warnings to disperse, loudly enough to be heard from blocks away. The LRAD is typically used in such scenarios. The LRAD was not used on June 1, and protesters who were in Lafayette Square said police gave little to no warning.

DeMarco, who has since sought whistleblower protection, responded that “the D.C. National Guard was not in possession of either an LRAD or an ADS.”

The email chain was sent hours before officers deployed tear gas and smoke grenades against protesters in Lafayette Square. After the square was cleared, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn’t think he could’ve done more to stop virus spread Conservative activist Lauren Witzke wins GOP Senate primary in Delaware Trump defends claim coronavirus will disappear, citing ‘herd mentality’ MORE was photographed holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The Hill has reached out to Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region for comment.

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New York congressman condemns House leaders for blocking bipartisan coronavirus bill

New York Rep. Max Rose said he was disappointed to be a Democrat after House leaders blocked a bipartisan coronavirus stimulus package.

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Rose, a Democrat in a tough reelection race, criticized congressional leaders for blocking a proposal from the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that included policies both sides support to provide a temporary stimulus to those suffering during the pandemic.

“It made me disappointed to be a Democrat,” Rose told CNN. “You saw all the reasons why people hate politics. Because they are rejecting a bold bipartisan measure outright and insinuating things are not in there when they actually are and just continuing to kick the can down the road over and over again.”

“It’s deeply frustrating,” he added. “It’s a charade. […] It’s stupid.”

The proposal from the Problem Solvers Caucus would have included $2 trillion in additional stimulus to address problems caused by the pandemic. The bill included another round of stimulus checks for citizens, additional unemployment benefits, and additional funding for elections, all of which have bipartisan support.

The legislation excludes the more controversial proposals that have the two parties split, including federal funding for states who are facing budget shortfalls.

The Democratic leaders in the House, however, said that the legislation did not go far enough. They claimed that the legislative package “falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy.”

Senate Democrats also blocked a similar narrow coronavirus bill earlier in September that would have provided some temporary economic aid.

Rose has made a point of contradicting his party in recent weeks. He recently ran a campaign advertisement calling New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio the “worst” mayor in the city’s history. While he tries to gain the support of frustrated moderates, Republican super PACs have been pouring money into his district highlighting his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Tags: News, Nancy Pelosi, Congress

Original Author: Madison Dibble

Original Location: ‘Disappointed to be a Democrat’: New York congressman condemns House leaders for blocking bipartisan coronavirus bill

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Kosovar and Serbian Leaders Seek a Resolution During Talks at the White House

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Kosovar and Serbian leaders meet in Washington for talks, Russia prepares for military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, and French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.

We’re taking a break Monday for Labor Day, but we’ll be back on Tuesday. As always, we welcome your feedback at [email protected].

Talks Represent a Step Forward, but There Is Little Prospect for a Resolution 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti will meet at the White House today for the second day of talks aimed at resolving bilateral tensions. The meeting will be hosted by U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Richard Grenell, the U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations. It is unclear if President Donald Trump will participate.

On Thursday, Grenell tweeted that “the people of Kosovo and Serbia deserve economic normalization and the chance to create a vibrant economy,” which comports with the White House’s stated intention of “flipping the script” of the dialogue and prioritizing economic issues over political ones. Vucic will also reportedly seek to build an economic relationship with Kosovo during the meeting.

Recognition is paramount. But Kosovo has different priorities. The breakaway republic is not recognized diplomatically by Serbia, from whom it declared independence in 2008 after fighting a brutal war for independence in the late 1990s. In a Q&A with Foreign Policy on the eve of the current round of talks, Hoti said that “the main issue remains a final settlement, a peace agreement between the two countries that will solve once and forever the open issue between the two countries, which is mutual recognition.”

Withstanding the pressure. The European Union, which has so far led talks between the two sides, insists that mutual recognition is a necessary precondition for both countries to enter the bloc, but Vucic has resisted calls for recognition of Kosovo. In a Q&A with Foreign Policy in March, he warned that “the vast majority of people in Serbia … would prefer a frozen conflict [with Kosovo] to any single solution.”

Electioneering. Some observers believe that Trump is hoping the talks will help boost his foreign-policy credentials in the months leading up the November presidential election. In recent weeks, the administration has also brokered a historic peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and successfully pressured the Afghan government to release the last Taliban prisoners needed to begin talks with the group.


What We’re Following Today

Russia turns up the heat in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey announced late Wednesday evening that Russian forces will conduct live-fire exercises in the eastern Mediterranean amid a deepening crisis with Greece. Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the Russian exercises would be “monitored by all the countries in the region, as well as our NATO allies and European Union partners.”

It is unclear why Turkey announced the exercises on Russia’s behalf, but the two countries have sought to strengthen their ties in recent years, so

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